Finnan’s Sonnet: A Disabled Sonnet about A Disabled Boy

March 29, 2013

A story and a poem by Julia Boonnak, blogger from Can’t Do Gymnastics.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about Finnan: who he is, what he likes, his personality, etc. for a long time, but every time I begin to write about him, the words are just not good enough. How can I describe the most beautiful thing in the world? I can’t do him justice.

So I have writer’s block.

This week I was preparing a poetry analysis class for some of my year 9 students, and while I read a sonnet, I knew it was a perfect tool for describing Finnan.

A sonnet follows very strict rules. It has 14 lines, each with 10 syllables. These syllables follow their own pattern of weak strong, weak strong, weak strong, weak strong, weak strong (my year 9 students will call this iambic pentameter).

He pursed his tiny lips to concentrate.

Besides a strict structure, it also must have a strict rhyming pattern. The first line rhymes with the third, the second with the fourth, and so on. There is a rhyming couplet at the end. So the pattern goes ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

The reason a sonnet structure would be good to use for a poem about Finnan is because I could change the form and structure of the sonnet, to change the way it looked physically. I could change the patterns to make it break the rules. I could make the shape and structure of the poem disabled like Finnan. That way, the form of the poem supports the message that is written in it.

It’s a disabled sonnet about a disabled boy, and the structure of the poem takes the strain of the disability. The words are then free to focus more clearly on the beauty of Finnan’s person.

I spent a while thinking about this idea smugly after I’d settled on it. So clever and artsy fartsy.

Not that I’m the first person to have this idea of course.

Anyway, it turns out that writing a sonnet is headachingly hard work. And I was breaking the rules too so it was a lot easier than writing a proper one. My respect for poets has increased dramatically, and I hope that Shakespeare had access to a bucket-load of paracetamol in his day.

Here is the shameful attempt. It took me a week to write- no joke. I apologise in advance.

Ataxic body bound by gravity
Curled up around his Chinese box to play
Took out his dominoes so carefully
And lined them up with his shaky hand
Kept steady, five white soldiers stood up proud
He pursed his tiny lips to concentrate
The game was set. A smile, a whisper ‘wow’
And everyone was watching. Go!
He felt his arm come crashing down to pain
his soldiers, a destructive world of fun
And straight away he signed the word ‘again’
Began to fix his army.
His fight begins anew each rising sun
He saw, he played, he laughed
Today he won

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